After spending 60 days on a commercial fishing boat, 1,000 miles from land, San Jose State researcher Paul Clerkin discovered never-before-seen sharks, which will be showcased Tuesday on Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”.
Clerkin, 29, first traveled to the southern Indian Ocean with the fishing crew to catalog their shark bycatch in 2012. Within two months, he encountered 23 types of sharks, eight of which were a new species as reported by Mercury News.
Clerkin, a master’s student researching at Moss Landing Marine Labs, returned to the boat in March, with a Discovery Channel film crew by his side to film “Alien Sharks.” Clerkin said he’s not allowed to say how many new species he discovered this year, but he’s happy with the trip’s success.
“Sharks come in all different sizes, (with) big pieces, little pieces, different colors, different roles in the food web,” Clerkin said. “Myself, that’s what I love: Seeing all these different, weird sharks.”
The episode will feature footage of a new species of ghost shark, yet to be named, with a brown body, purple fins and thick head.
A unique feature of the watermelon-sized shark is a venomous, barbed spine emerging from its dorsal fin, which can move independently, Clerkin said.
Clerkin also discovered a new species of demon catshark, a scary-looking shark with cat-like eyes.
“It looks like a bodyguard or a bouncer of catsharks,” Clerkin said. “It has a robust, big body. It looks kind of like a bulldog body, if you can imagine that for a shark.”
The new species has a large mouth that contains spiky needle-shaped teeth and a black body covered in scars, probably from mating, he said.
Clerkin said he plans to continue exploring the southern Indian Ocean, along with other poorly studied places across the globe.
“That’s the thing with the ocean — it’s incredibly underexplored,” Clerkin said. “So I don’t know if I’ll ever really be done exploring.”
Never-Before-Seen Indian Ocean Sharks to Debut On ‘Shark Week’